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How to Wipe, Degauss, or Destroy Data on a Hard Drive

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You own a computer and then purchased a new one. After moving all of your important data to the new computer and deciding to sell or donate the old computer you are faced with the question of deleting the data or destroying the hard drive. One one hand, if you delete the data and reinstall the operating system the next owner can quickly use the computer. If you destroy the hard drive, another drive would have to be installed for the computer to be useful again. 
What if the hard drive lands into the wrong hands? Your tax return, financial records, intimate photos, and more could be used against you. 

With the 2007 NBA Playoffs on TV this month, an interesting connection has arose. It seems the San Antonio Spurs guard, Bruce Bowen, and his wife have filed a lawsuit against a local computer firm when their hard drive and data ended up on another person's computer. The recipient of the hard drive contacted Mr. Bowen and informed him of the breach of privacy. To read more about this incident visit the news article. As a computer consultant myself, I see a huge breach of computer privacy with this case and I foresee Mr. Bowen winning the lawsuit easily.  


Now what can you do to avoid a similar situation as Mr. Bowen's? First you have to decide if you want to permanently erase the data or destroy the drive. If you decide to permanently erase the data, you have several options. However let's go over what you DON'T want to do.
Don't just delete your data and empty the recycle bin
Don't just format the hard drive
Don't just format and reinstall Windows or another operating system
Why don't you want to do the above? It seems this would be enough to make sure your data isn't compromised.

Let's take a step back and understand how data is stored on a hard drive. When information is written to a drive, the location of the information is stored in a file that resembles a table of contents for a book, On computers running DOS and Windows operating systems, the File Allocation Table (FAT) or the Master File Table (MFT) holds this information. When a file is deleted, the FAT or MFT table is updated to tell the computer the space on the hard drive is available, however the actual data is not deleted until it is overwritten with new data. This is why you read about computer forensic teams, the FBI, and other law enforcement being able to recover data to solve crimes or incriminate individuals. Using software undelete tools, you can restore files that were accidentally or otherwise deleted. In more severe case, services such as Drive Savers are used to recover data that has been physically or electronically destroyed. 

Baring any of these extra efforts, you can use the procedures below to erase or destroy your data so the average individual won't be able to recover anything from your computer hard drive.

Using Wipe Utilities

In order to prevent data from being recovered, you should use data wiping software to completely erase the information to Department of Defense (DOD) standards. I recommend the following free tools to sanitize or wipe a hard drive of information:

Darik's Boot and Nuke - a program that can be booted from floppy or CD to completely erase a hard drive
Eraser by Heidi Computers Limited
Active@ KillDisk
If you plan on giving your computer away, selling it, or otherwise disposing of it, please destroy the data on it by using one of the above wiping utilities. 

Degaussing a Hard Drive

An extra step is to degauss the hard drive. Degaussing is a process whereby the magnetic media is erased using a reverse magnetic field to scramble the electronic data and make it unreadable. Unfortunately degaussing machines are rather expensive ($2000.00 or more) and are not realistic purchases for the average consumer. However, you can send your hard drive to a degaussing company like Garner Products or SEM and for a few dollars can have your hard drive completely degaussed and/or destroyed. If your data security is important enough, this is a wise step.

Physically Destroying a Hard Drive

Physically destroying a hard drive is by far the most effective method for the average person to ensure the safety of their data. However, please wear protective glasses and other gear if you decide to physically destroy a drive yourself. It can be a dangerous activity that I don't recommend to everyone. Also, as a precaution, wrap the hard drive in a towel so the parts don't fly off and do more damage.

Whether its smashing the hard drive with a sledgehammer, drilling holes into the drive, tearing the drive apart and destroying the platters, shredding the drive, or other methods your sensitive data will be safe. 

For the most security, I recommend doing as many of the above procedures (wiping the drive, degaussing it, and destroying it) as you can. If a drive is wiped, degaussed, and destroyed the chances of recovering the data is almost nil.

Conclusion

If a computer store, consultant, or other qualified computer tech tells you your hard drive is crashed and the data is unrecoverable, ask for them to return the original drive to you. This way you can physically destroy and dispose of the drive to your satisfaction and avoid situations like Mr. Bowen's where your data suddenly appears on someone else's computer screen.

Posted on Oct 18, 2008

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How do i wipe my computer clean


That depends on what you mean by 'clean'?
Also, I'm answering (rewording) your question to: 'How to clean out your filesystem and data on your drive'. Hoping that's what you meant?

If you want to 'wipe' your computer so it is impossible for anyone to ever recover any file, then what you do is physically destroy the internal hard drive, and then purchase a brand new 'clean' one!

If you want to 'clean' out all junk files and start your computer 'clean' again, generally most run the operating system image back through it again (these 'images' are sometimes accessed via a Fn key at startup, but refer to the computer manufacturer for more help)

If you want to just clean out everything from your hard drive and start 'clean'. Then you just need to remove the partition, or even format the drive.
To do this, the drive you want to format cannot be 'in use' at the time. There are many bootable CD's and USB drives that can start your computer so as to 'clean' your hard drive out.

Jun 12, 2014 | Microsoft Computers & Internet

Tip

How to Completely Erase a Hard Disk Drive


Erasing a hard drive is a step that most computer users overlook. Just simply going through your data and using the delete key in Windows does not entirely delete the data. This just simply removes the shortcuts making it not visible to the user. If a person wanted, they can easily use software to obtain the data off the hard drive.

Fun Fact
A study was done and were 158 used disk drives were collected and the data retrieved. The two students found 5,000 credit card numbers, medical reports, detailed personal and corporate financial information, and several gigabytes worth of personal e-mail and pornography on those drives.

Disk Wiping Methods

There are two common methods for erasing data. These are formatting and wiping. Formatting a hard drive will not erase the data on the disk but will delete the address tables making it more difficult for average users to see the data, however, a computer specialist who is skilled can obtain some or all of the data using tools. Disk wiping is a more effective method and basically write over the data with 1's or 0's. The more times the disk is overwritten the more secure it is.

Disk Wiping Software
There are numerous free software utilities out there that will wipe your hard drive. I will recommend two programs and briefly go over them.

Eraser - Click here for download

Eraser is a advanced security tool for Windows that will completely remove data from your hard drive. It has a simple to use interface and uses multiple wiping methods such as Peter Gutmann's paper Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory.

You can use this program to delete files, folders, recycle bin contents and even free space on a drive. Click here for a quick start guide which will give you the basics.

-You can even use Eraser to wipe your flash drive.

Darik's Boot and Nuke - Click here for download

Darik's Boot and Nuke is basically software you boot your computer into. You can load the software into a floppy disk, CD, or USB stick if supported by your computer. Once you boot into the program, you select the wiping options and it will do the work. This is an effective program and I have used it before.

In order to boot your computer to the software you will first need to load the software on the media(usb/cd/floppy) described above then insert the media into your computer. Turn off your computer and as it is booting up you want to go into your computer BIOS. Usually, it will tell you what to press to get into BIOS during the boot up process. Once inside the BIOS you will need to change your boot order so it boots to the media device first. Once done, exit the BIOS saving your changes and the computer will boot into the media and start the data wipe software.

Tips

-If you are installing a new operating system I recommend you first wipe the hard drive using the methods described above, then formatting the drive for the new operating system. If you are giving away the hard drive or computer, I would recommend you wipe the hard drive before doing so.



I hope this article was informative. Be sure to check out my other tips and tricks by clicking on my name then clicking on "Tips" under my profile.


Regards,
G33k



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on Jun 21, 2011 | Computers & Internet

1 Answer

How do I wipe the hard drive of konica minolta bz-c353


Take it out and use your PC or Laptop to wipe out/reformatted. If the hard drive contains sensitive data then you will need to find a program that will wipe out those completely.
Try this method

Nov 21, 2013 | Konica Minolta BZ-C353

2 Answers

My hard disk (C drive) is showing as "not installed" in my BIOS menu on my Dell Dimension 3000. My data is backed up and I just want to wipe the hard drive.


Open your computer and de-assemble the hard disk, clean data buses and ports and reassemble the hard disk, it will work.

Jul 29, 2011 | Dell Dimension 3000 PC Desktop

1 Answer

When i try the acer system recovery it keeps coming up with an error that says windows could not install and setup with resume when computer restarts..restarts ands same box pops up? cannot get past that...


Have you tried booting to the system recovery again and starting it over? Otherwise you may need to wipe it clean and start from scratch. Download a program like Darik's boot an dnuke to wipe the hard drive clean (this will destroy all data on the hard drive, including system recovery data if that is saved on the hard drive instead of CD's.) Then try the system recovery again (if it's on CD's)

Jun 24, 2011 | Acer Aspire One PC Notebook

1 Answer

How do i install and wipe all data from lap top if theres no disc drive


You don't need to. The only info left is the bios data, that is needed to use the laptop again with a new hard drive. All your personal data was removed when the drive was removed.

However, its still on the drive, so unless you're going to keep it as a back up or something you still need to destroy the data. A lug hammer would be a good start.

Mar 27, 2011 | Compaq 2710p Tablet PC

1 Answer

I am giving away my laptop and I want to delete everything! Pictures music programs and everything else. can you help?


Formatting a hard disk cannot prevent recovering data from a hard drive.
There are programs available on the Internet that wipe data permanently from a hard disk. Here are a few sites that can hekp you wipe data from your hard drive :-

http://www.dban.org/

http://www.pcworld.com/article/110338/answer_line_wipe_your_drive_clean_of_all_its_sensitive_data.html

Oct 11, 2010 | Computers & Internet

3 Answers

How do you wipe the compaq presario m2000


I'm not sure if you are wiping it to start over or to sell/give away.

Many newer machines have a Recovery Partition, usually your "D:" drive.

Access the System Recovery partition from the Start-All Programs-System Recovery-System Recovery Menu. Following the prompts will allow you to reformat the computer and reinstall the operating system and all software as it came from the factory. From that point, if you don't want any of the factory junk, you'll need to uninstall it yourself.

If the Recovery partition is missing, (usually a D: drive) , then you'll need to have the original Recovery discs which were created when the computer was new.

If you simply want to wipe it, use a disk wiping tool. Many hard drive wipers, cleaners or shredders can be downloaded at no cost. Visit Downloads.com to search for these programs that are designed to wipe your hard drive. Once you have downloaded a disk wiping program, install it on your computer. Each program will have a unique graphical user interface (GUI) and directions for use. Follow the directions for your selected disk wiping tool and run the program to wipe your hard drive. The program will make sure that all files and data have been completely erased by overwriting the entries multiple times.
disk wiping tool. Many hard drive wipers, cleaners or shredders can be downloaded at no cost. Visit Downloads to search for these programs that are designed to wipe your hard drive. Once you have downloaded a disk wiping program, install it on your computer. Each program will have a unique graphical user interface (GUI) and directions for use. Follow the directions for your selected disk wiping tool and run the program to wipe your hard drive. The program will make sure that all files and data have been completely erased by overwriting the entries multiple times.

Read more: http://pcs.suite101.com/article.cfm/wiping_your_computer_hard_drvie#ixzz0RZDlV3Qr

Sep 19, 2009 | Compaq Presario M2000 Notebook

1 Answer

Remove and destroy old hard drive


What I would do is take a screw driver a very small phillips, You can take it apart and remove the disks and destroy and break disks there just like a cd rom and then you can send the rest or it to be recycle at your nearest recycling plant that takes care of computer components. You can just put it back together and recycle it Please don't just throw it in the garbage, Toshiba has a place if you call the 800 number you can send the hole drive and they will destroy it for you, If you want to do that too. I would trust them that they would do so. I am sure if anything happened after that they would be responsible for it... I hope that helps you out...

Jan 16, 2008 | Gateway 505GR PC Desktop

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